Where do people look for satisfaction or happiness today?
We live in a world which is full of desire but empty of satisfaction!
That’s why the Rolling Stones sang at the heights of the 1960-70s “I can’t get no satisfaction”. That’s why Barack Obama said: “That was the problem with booze and drugs, wasn’t it? At some point they couldn’t stop that ticking sound, the sound of certain emptiness”.
Tonight we’re going to meet a woman, who was unsatisfied and looking for happiness in the wrong places.
John introduces us to her in chapter 4, after Nicodemus is told in chapter 3 about the gift of “eternal life” available in Jesus. The two characters couldn’t be more different: she was a woman in a man’s world. In contrast to the Jewish rabbi, she was a Samaritan - descendants of Jews who mixed with pagan Gentiles – they were despised for having their own Temple and Scriptures. Unlike the self-righteous Pharisee, she lived under a cloud of shame and scandal for her immoral lifestyle. That’s why when Jesus meets her she is at the hottest part of the day, collecting water from the local well alone. All the other women would have been early that morning in the cool, but she is isolated and ostracised from them.
Her daily journey with her water jar is a parable of her life story. She gets thirsty, she goes to the well to fill up her jar, she goes home and enjoys the water which satisfies her thirst… but gradually the jar empties… so she has to return to the well the next day to refill it. She lives in a desert of unsatisfied desires. But when Jesus Christ walks into her life, that is all about to change!
- What does Jeremiah 2:13 reveal about the true reason for her struggle to find satisfaction in life? How does this make sense of the solution that Jesus offers to her in v.13-14, and the question he asks her in v.16-18?
The true problem is spiritual– she has unfulfilled relationships with men – but she really needs a restored relationship with God. St. Augustine explained it this way: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you”.
- In light of her being exposed, why might she ask about Temple and Worship in v.20-22? (Does her response in v.28-29 help?)
“If she had guilt and shame exposed… where could she find atonement for her sins if the Samaritan worship were deficient … if that worship was wrong her hope of atonement is gone” (Noel)
- What do you think it means in v.24-26 that true worship and relationship with God is to be “in Spirit and Truth”? (Where does Jesus fit into it?)
Worship isn’t about place but “in Spirit and Truth”. The invisible God has made Himself known in Jesus Christ, who will pour out His Spirit into our hearts to bring us into relationship with God. Our worship must be in accordance with the truth that God has revealed in Christ and in the Bible (the Samaritans lacked the whole Bible and had cut themselves off from the Messianic line).
- Looking at John 19:28-30 and Revelation 22:1-2, how ultimately will Jesus solve her deepest problem and longings?
Jesus substitutes Himself into her place. Jesus will bring us eternal life in God’s presence in the new creation.
- What can we learn from Jesus’ explanation to the disciples about where He finds His satisfaction in v.31-34?
Jesus’ joy is found in serving His Father and accomplishing His will
TEACHING ON DESIRE
One of the major misconceptions about God is that He does not want us to be happy. People fear that living in God’s ways will frustrate our desires, leaving us feel unhappy and unsatisfied. But at the centre of John’s gospel, Jesus promises to give people “fullness of life” – what this woman lacked.
This was one of the most significant themes in the work of C.S. Lewis, who had an intense life-long interest in the search for happiness.
Our desires are telling us something:
“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing.
It is not wrong to desire to be happy and satisfied:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
We are relying on the wrong things to be satisfied:
“Human history is the long terrible story of humans trying to find something other than God which will make them happy”
Where can it be found?
“If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire. If you want to be wet, you must get into the water. If you want joy, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them… God Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other… God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because… there is no such thing…”
So God’s holy commands are not there to frustrate our happiness but rather to redirect our paths so we can find both holiness and happiness in Him. Lewis once wrote to a friend, Arthur Greeves who wrestled with lust and same-sex attraction:
“God not only understands but shares the desire which is at the root of all my sin – the desire for complete and ecstatic happiness. He made me for no other purpose than to enjoy it. But He knows, and I do not, how it can be really and permanently attained… I may always feel looking back on any past sin that in the very heart of my evil passion there was something that God approves and wants me to feel not less but more… But the thirst will never be quenched in the way I tried to quench it…”
WE NEVER HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN GOD AND HAPPINESS; only TRUE and FALSE HAPPINESS!
- How can Lewis’ reflections help you see your desires, temptations, in a new light? How could you use them to help a friend who is wrestling with a persistent temptation?
- How can Lewis’ reflections on desire help us in our evangelism in an unsatisfied world?
Jesus is good news:
- In the past: He can remove our sin and shame from seeking satisfaction in the wrong places
- In the present: He can bring us satisfaction in knowing and serving God
- In the future: He will completely satisfy our longings in the new creation